Sunday, July 26, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #222 A "Sign" of the Times . . . or at least of A Time, Boca Grande, Florida, January 2014


Simple photo this week. I found this sign at Whidden's Marina in Boca Grande, Florida on Gasparilla Island off the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. It's near Port Charlotte.

Is the sign for real or just a hoax? READ MORE & SEE MORE PHOTOS

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Humanity from Space - A Human Odyssey

Okay, I know I recently posted an article about TV being one of the great "life thieves." And, I still stand by that. And, I'm still, hopefully, to a lot lesser degree than the population at large, getting better and better at not allowing TV to usurp my priceless time. But, alas, I'm still human in a world where hundreds of channels and thousands of hours of choices in (mostly, in my opinion) mindless drivel is beamed into our lives 24/7/365. I'm weak, but working at getting stronger.

My point is, I'm actually going to recommend you watch a TV program. A friend I highly respect and who is, by IQ, in the genius category and who is also, in financial terms, one of the, so-called, 1%, recommended this program to me. The title of the program is "Humanity from Space." It is what I am terming a PBS (Public Broadcasting) scihisdoc or to clarify, a science, history documentary. And, as with just about all Public Broadcasting programs, the research, the video, graphics, photos and production values are excellent. It's available in high definition, of course.

I can't give you all the information in the program, it's too comprehensive. I will tell you that of the estimated 200,000 years humans have populated this planet, this program explores the last 12,000 years or basically before there was any kind of formal civilization and societies consisted of hunting/gathering bands of nomadic humans.

As I said, the program is very comprehensive. It keynotes the pivotal events in human societal development from the hunting/gathering bands, through the Agrarian Revolution. This event caused a massive change in humanity and was where civilization, as we refer to it was born. It then proceeds to the Industrial Revolution and the massive changes in the course of human events it brought about. The Information Age was next and again, created massive change. And, of course, now we are in the Digital Age.

All of these changes included or were actually caused by technological invention and advancements. And, along with these advances came changes in how humans lived in the societies that were evolving. This is when the birth and creation of cities and urban life began. The requirements for housing, governance, commerce, transportation, etc. also began to take form. 

The thing that startled me to some degree, yet, didn't necessarily take me by complete surprise was how long it took to get to where humanity finally "took off," so to speak. The technological advances and the order in which they fell into place led to our present state of humanity and civilization. All of this actually occurred in such a relatively minute amount of time in the 12,000 year journey. The statistics at the end of the program were amazing. I was aware of some of them, but my mind was boggled by others.

So, if you have a desire to understand the world we live in today and what the future holds, I strongly recommend you find a local PBS station that has this program on their schedule. You may especially find this an important information if you value whatever personal freedom you currently have, because retaining our personal freedom will likely be much more difficult in the future. 

I, in fact, went to the PBS Web site and streamed the program in full HD. The screen may have been a bit smaller on my laptop than the average home LCD, hi-def, flat screen TV, but it was just as amazing and the sound was great, too.


Try this link and see if it takes you there: "Humanity from Space"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #221 The Past in the Present, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, June 2014


June of 2014 found me revisiting an important and a pivotal location from my past. I was back in Syracuse, New York visiting my dear friends, John and Pat Hottenstein and our alma mater, Syracuse University. John was (and still is, of course) an ordained minister and Pat was a nurse. John and I met as students. We were in the Masters in Television & Radio program at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. I don't remember if it was Sequence 20 or 21, the years have made that blurry. There were 52 of us in the program as I recall.

The building pictured above is Carnegie Library. It was the main library for the university at that time (1967 & 1968). It was also the headquarters for the Television & Radio Department. The very old, black & white TV studio was housed there with a selection of 1950's equipment. . . READ AND SEE MORE PHOTOS

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Meet My 'A' Teams: Team #1 Dr. Eva Urena's Dental Office


Earlier this year, I, like thousands of other U.S. and Canadian "snowbirds" (folks who travel south for the winter in RV's, vans, other vehicles and those who rent or own their own properties) visit the small border town of Los Algodones, Mexico. This little Mexican town is primarily known for it's specialty . . . dental services. In fact, though I haven't been able to find an exact number, it's estimated there are 350 certified dentists, many, if not most, trained fully or partially in the U.S.

A typical street in the four square block downtown of Algodones
Algodones, as it's known by most people who've been there, is on the Mexican and U.S. border a few miles from Winterhaven, California and Yuma, Arizona. It is the northern most city in Mexico in Baja. This little town of about 5,500 offers the dental work I spoke of as well as medical, optical and pharmacy products and services all within a four square block downtown area. You'll also find some really good restaurants, street food and shopping, too.

Border crossing back into the U.S., foot traffic is to the right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Jobless Future - Fact or Fallacy?



Here is a topic that is near everyone's heart. The Jobless Future. Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "The old order changeth, yielding place to the new." That was my 1963 high school class motto. Of course, I was a young, green, heading to college kid full of piss and vinegar, ready to take the world by storm. HA, I thought, I'm one of those "new" that Tennyson spoke about and I was going to replace all those "old order" people.

Of course, this has been happening since the beginning of human existence. The reality, in 1963, is that I had no clue what the world would be like in 2015. In so many ways, we have literally embraced aspects of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984  and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged along with others. One thing is for sure, while much of the infrastructure still looks like it did in 1963 (and that's regrettable since it's crumbling and turning into ruins), it sure isn't the same world it was back then.

Jobless Future?

So, what's this about a jobless future? Actually, it's been coming for a long time. My belief is that the turn of the century, 2000, was a defining line. There was much to do about nothing with the fear of all the computers in the world crashing at midnight as the world left the 20th Century and entered the 21st Century. But, uh, not so much. It came and went with few, if any, noticeable glitches. But, prior to the turn over to the 21st Century, the digital age was making serious changes in the world. I believe, due to some of the millennium crash fears, a lot of digital implementation was held in holding status to see what would happen.

The U.S. and, I would imagine, all the, so-called, industrialized and developed nations in the world had been implementing computerization and robotic automation for at least a couple decades. Occupations like stenographers and secretaries, to mention a couple, were disappearing. A new term, administrative assistant was now used and referred to a much smaller pool of workers with more computer skills. The old telephone operator job, personified by Lily Tomlin in her comedic skit as a character named Ernestine the telephone operator was also replaced by computers. The traditional draftsman and architectural draftsmen were replaced by computer programs known as CAD and CAM or CAD/CAM with new, young people operating the computers.

So, jobs have been both changing and diminishing over the past few decades. Another example is the auto industry. The United Auto Workers union membership topped 1.5 million in the 1970's. In 2013 the membership was about 400,000 and thousands of those workers were not working in auto assembly plants. Add to this the decline of the steel industry, the mining industry and the petroleum industry. Literally millions of jobs have disappeared, never to reappear.

This is a trend and not a fad. The financial collapse of 2008 was the catalyst for a series of major changes. Since that time we've experienced  the loss of millions of other jobs. That financial event was actually, what I believe, a long overdue workforce adjustment. That's a nice way of saying, industry and professions in general were looking for a way to off load a huge inefficient workforce of people costing way too much money.

The industrial and most of the professional jobs that were eliminated could be and were replaced by computers and automation. It required a period of "retooling," if you will, to change over from human labor to computers and robotics that could do the same jobs faster, more efficiently, more precisely, with less downtime, no massive payroll and without benefit programs, etc.

Was this fair? Well, no one ever said life is fair. Was it moral or ethical? What does morality or ethics of this nature have to do with running an efficient and profitable business? Even China where labor is very cheap because they have at least four people for every one U.S. citizen, has been implementing more computerization and robotics. India, again with a population that is nearly 4:1 over the U.S., has more college graduates than the entire population of the U.S. And, of course, nowhere near enough jobs to employ all these people gainfully.

Tennyson's words, "the old order," in modern terms, meant not only the human factor, but also the societal factors of employment, technology and social structure. As an example from my own industry, back in the 60's, 70's and 80's analog recording and huge, expensive recording equipment was required to operate a commercial recording studio. There were lots of big studios especially in the recording capitals of the country including New York City, Nashville, Los Angeles and Chicago. All the serious music and motion picture industry music was recording in these "Temples of Sound" as documented in a book by the same name. Today, most of those studios are either museums, closed, torn down or barely busy enough to keep them open. That was my industry. Those were places I visited and hung out.

The digital and robotic age has changed almost everything. There are even driverless cars being beta tested on the roads of the U.S. New industries like Uber, Lyft and similar are contemplating replacing the living, breathing human drivers of these services with driverless cars as soon as they are viable. Businesses like Air BnB are coming online (literally) and providing economical travel housing in people's homes where spare rooms are available. The traditional bed and breakfast model is coming of age and being expanded. Eventually, this could displace untold thousands of hospitality workers in hotels and motels from luxury to budget. The agriculture industry has eliminated millions of jobs because with modern farm equipment, people aren't needed.

Traditional jobs are going away. There is no doubt about it and no stopping it. It is the "new order."

What is the Future?

The future is going to be a lot of educated and skilled workers, more and more over the next few decades, who will have less and less job availabilities. There will likely continue to be certain kinds of unskilled and low-skill level work for a fairly large number of people, but these will not be or never be high paying jobs. Manufacturing jobs may change and disappear as the 3D copiers become more and more capable. I understand there is already in development, a 3D food replicating system that will be similar to what we witnessed on the 1960's Startrek TV series. You punch in what you want to eat and within a few seconds or minutes, you have a prepared meal that seemingly appears from nowhere.

Professionals and those with specialized skills will potentially work, probably from a home office or work space, 10 or 15 hours a week. Some positions may be filled by multiple employees operating like this. Even today, much of the customer service representative and technical support service representative work is conducted by employees working from their homes. The incoming calls are routed to them, digitally, of course, by a central computer.

I actually had this kind of system operating for my own business as long as 10 years ago. I had a phone number in Las Vegas, I had assigned extension numbers to members of my contracted team and the incoming calls were routed to them all over the U.S. We could even transfer calls between one another and instantly create a conference call. The client never knew we were a thousand miles or more apart.

The "new order" in the work world will have far more leisure time and have to learn to use all this time that's now spent commuting, working in a factory, mine, office or wherever, for other avocational pursuits. Those of us who, in 1963 were the "new order" are now the "old order." We won't be directly impacted by as much of this change since we're all crossing over the hill, so to speak. The current generation of "new order" and especially the next two generations will be heavily impacted by this transition. But, they will probably adjust to it fairly easily because they will grow up in the digital world, be educated remotely online and do more and more of their everyday living in their digital cocoons.

The really big question in my mind is, how will the finances of not working operate? In other words, will the U.S. and the world become one giant welfare system? Everyone will still need access to the basics of housing, clothing, food, medical care and medicine, heating and cooling, etc. Will services like Bitcoin replace our current monetary system? Will each person in society simply receive an electronic ration of spendable digital money? If so, will everyone receive the same amount and if not, how will it be apportioned and who will make that determination? It's an interesting idea that may already becoming reality.

If this subject interests you I would suggest, if you haven't already read the classic book,  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and similar books, you pick up copies and read them. Also, there is an interesting article that caught my eye, "Sorry, but the jobless future isn’t a luddite fallacy," in the Washington Post (which is now owned by Jeff Besos, founder of Amazon.com).

If you're wondering how this has anything to do with living free, just think about it. If eventually there are few or no jobs, that means everyone will effectively become wards of the state (a nicer way of saying everyone will be on welfare) and everything will be provided by the government meaning food, housing, medical care and so on. Imagine how much personal freedom anyone will have then when everyone will be dependent and accountable to the government. Even at this time, according to a Pew Research study, an estimated 50% to 55% of the U.S. is receiving some kind of government benefit (paid for by the recipients - Social Security and Medicare) or entitlements including welfare, SNAP, Medicaid, Unemployment, etc. funded by taxpayers.

For those of us from the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomer Generation, we'll likely not be too impacted by this. That is, other than hoping our Social Security and Medicare benefits continue until our passing (but, that's not guaranteed). Of course, I'm hoping it will last at least until I celebrate my 100th birthday in 30 years. I am not a prophet or fortune teller. I don't know the future. But, I do know when I was part of the "new order" in 1963, I didn't have a clue what the world would be like when I was part of the old order some 50 years later.


Other books to refer to:  Animal Farm and 1984 , Orwell, Atlas Shrugged, Rand and books by Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov and many others who, though mainly considered science fiction, gave us a peek into the future. It's a bit disconcerting to me to see how close so much of their fiction turned into reality.     

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #219 Alone . . . in a Large Group, Barton, Maryland, July 2015


How many times have you found yourself in some kind of large group and yet, felt completely alone? I imagine just about everyone has been in this uncomfortable situation at least once and probably more than once. I usually don't post a Photo-of-the-Week the same day I took the photo, but this just seemed like a good theme. This is the situation I found myself in today.

I don't know if I can make the broad generalization that most families have regular (or semi-regular) family reunion (often picnic) gatherings. I'm sure I'm safe to say many families do this. . . READ MORE

Friday, July 10, 2015

Top Ten List of Life Thieves: #12 - "Television"

Television! TV! The One-Eyed Monster! The Boob Tube! A rose by any other name is still a rose. The same goes for television.

People were amazed and delighted with the first photographs. What a technological advance dating back to around the mid-19th Century. It was the beginning of what became a huge industry for over 150 years. Recorded sound was the next major technological advance. It is, of course, with us today after evolving through a variety of format/media advancements.  Then came the motion picture. From its very primitive beginnings without sound and only in black and white to the technological marvel movies with multi-channel sound movies have evolved to today.

Public consumption commercial radio broadcasts began in the 1920's. Broadcast radio is now ubiquitous in homes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, farm tractors, boats, etc. They are terrestrial based and satellite transmitted. And let's not forget that radio has expanded to the Internet and can be received on computers, tablet computing devices and smart phones.

And then there is television . . .